IRENA has published the full series of 30 Innovation Briefs under its Innovation Landscape report. It is the most comprehensive analysis available on innovation priorities that policymakers must address to successfully decarbonise the electricity systems with renewables and push for innovative renewables solutions in a COVID-19 recovery stimulus.
Innovation is a key driver for energy transformation. Innovative solutions can make energy production, transmission, and consumption more flexible, allowing for higher, cost-effective use of renewables and empowering a new generation of energy consumers. Electrification, decentralization, and digitalization are leading innovation trends that are changing paradigms, unlocking system flexibility for more renewables, changing roles and responsibilities, and opening doors to new entrants in the sector.
The power sector has led the way with rapid cost reductions in key renewable energy technologies. Today, renewables accounts for one third of total global power generation, with a substantial growth in variable renewable energy (VRE) like wind and solar PV. However, achieving Paris Agreement climate objectives would require two thirds of global power demand based on renewables by 2050. Globally, the share of electricity consumed in end-use sectors such as industry, transport and buildings would need to double from around a quarter today to almost 50% by mid-century. Wind and solar generation would need to increase from 10% today to 60% over the same period.
Innovations are emerging across four key dimensions of the world’s power systems:
Enabling Technologies: Technologies that play a key role in facilitating the integration of renewable energy for example batteries, EV charging, blockchain, Internet of Things and AI and big data.
Business models: Innovative models that create the business case for new services, enhancing the system’s flexibility and incentivising further integration of renewable energy technologies for example energy-as-a-service, peer-to-peer trading and pay-as-you-go models.
Market design: New market structures and changes in the regulatory framework to encourage flexibility and value services needed in a renewable-based power energy system, stimulating new business opportunities for example time-of-use tariffs and net billing.
System operation: Innovative ways of operating the electricity system, allowing the integration of higher shares of variable renewable power generation for example advanced weather forecast, dynamic line rating and virtual power lines.